An atmospheric, immersive show and an experience that feels original. However, Rooms is not a cheerful theatre trip, and stays on a somewhat gloomy level throughout. Enda Walsh has created gripping stories, but they all share a similarly sad tone for the 90 minute show.
Rooms begins in a big black warehouse filled with five white cubes, each playing out a new scenario for you to discover. You are one amongst six others and are escorted around five life-like rooms that truly take to you to the real place; a kitchen, bathroom, an office, a hotel room and a little girl’s bedroom. The intimacy and closeness is what really makes this production stand out amongst other theatrical experiences.
Once you’re in, the theatre begins. An audio comes on and the lighting starts to change as you sit in the 5m x 5m room. Each voice is describing a snippet of their life, with immersive lighting and sound to go with it. The voice actors are thrilling to listen to as they play with dynamics and emotion to get their story across. Niall Buggy’s voice is particularly onomatopoeic and they all capture the essence of the characters extremely well.
However, 15 minutes with each person isn’t long enough, and I don’t feel fully invested into any of them by the time I have to move onto the next. Each room is completely disconnected from the last, so the struggles of each new character start to feel repetitive and unoriginal. This is not to say that they aren’t beautifully written and fantastically read, it’s just when put together in the context of this show – there is no variety in the emotional journey the audience has. It’s also very difficult to get the same emotion and story to the audience when all they can hear is your voice. This experience is clever but isn’t yet comparable to seeing real actors on stage.
The production side of Rooms is immaculate. If you enjoy being in the front row at the theatre, you can’t get any closer to the action than this! Stepping into each room is fascinating and brings such realness to the stories. Being able to see, smell, hear and even feel the room gives us, the audience, a greater connection to the anecdotes. The set, including Paul Fahy’s design and Adam Fitzsimons’ lighting, is meticulously created, with such detail in every room that is simply faultless. What strikes me is how they even get the smell of each room to transport you to that exact place. From a clean fresh bathroom smell, to a musty old hotel room – they don’t miss a thing. I particularly enjoyed ‘A Girl’s Room’ with its detailed bookshelves, pyjamas on the bed and a wardrobe full of clothes. They have gone to extremes to create naturalistic rooms that are intriguing to explore.
Despite its quiet and subdued atmosphere, Rooms is an exciting theatrical experience that is captivating and deeply thought out. It was lovely to break the tradition of traditional theatre and listen to such enchanting actors.
Rooms is playing until 19 April. For more information and tickets, visit the Barbican website.